RPW Column: Several Twists & Turns In The ’23 Hard Clay Open; News & Notes From OCFS
Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – The Hard Clay Open was a race with a lot of twists and turns.
Six lead changes among 5 drivers. It was anyone’s guess at different points of the race who was going to win.
Bobby Hackel led the first 10 laps, having a great duel with Billy Decker until Jimmy Phelps took over on lap 11. Larry Wight steadily moved up from his 7th starting spot and passed Phelps on lap 19.
Jimmy Horton looked very fast throughout the evening and took the lead on lap 27. As Matt Sheppard moved into contention from 12th starting spot, he, Horton and Wight ran in a tight formation until Wight took the lead back on lap 34.
Sheppard kept the pressure while in lapped traffic and the final lead change was Super Matt to the lead on lap 40 and on his way to his 3rd straight Hard Clay Open win.
It’s hard to believe that it was 4 years ago in this event that Sheppard scored his first OCFS win and he now owns 25 total wins. Matt continues his dominance at OCFS and picks up another big win.
Heartbreak for Jimmy Horton, running so well and looked like he could be a possible winner/. After being passed for the lead, Horton dropped out on lap 40.
Francois Bernier made his first ever appearance at OCFS this weekend. He impressively won his qualifier and he turned the fastest lap of the night at 20.562.
Other qualifying race winners were Max McLaughlin, Billy Decker and Sheppard.
McLaughlin was visibly smoking during the final laps of his qualifier and had to go to a backup, finishing 7th in the feature.
Excellent back and forth between Dillion Steuer and jack Lehner the last few laps of the feature. Steuer finished 4th and Lehner 5th.
Anthony Perrego had mechanical difficulties in the Superior 44 and Sheppard let Anthony drive a backup 9S in the feature. Perrego retired before halfway.
It was a very short night for Rich Eurich. Just one lap into warmups, the legendary veteran had mechanical issues, ending his night.
Rich’s sail panels saw some action later in the evening aboard Ryan Walther’s car in the consi.
As always with a STSS event at Orange County, a stout field of 54 cars attempted to qualify.
It was a great evening for Nick Giardini as he raced to his first ever Sportsman win over Brian Krummel and Darryl Nutting. Well done Nick.
A big field of 49 Sportsman cars signed into action.